Dr Kua Kia Soong, Director of SUARAM,
Listen all you people who have been flinging the ‘Racist’ label at Hindraf – if the 25 November 2007 uprising organized by Hindraf had not happened, we would not have had a political tsunami on 8 March 2008!
We can flail our arms and criticize the Hindraf leadership all we want but let us be “politically correct” about racism and who the racists are in Malaysia. Yes! It’s important to be politically correct on this issue because otherwise our political analysis becomes erroneous, leading to incorrect practice and more importantly, we let off the real villains!
Indians a Specially Oppressed Section
Hindraf happened because the marginalized Indians in this country are a specially oppressed section of the working class. It is an oppression that has taken on a racist character through the years, so much so that even middle class Indians; especially the youth have also become the victims of police brutality.
The Indian working class is among the poorest in the country and they do not have the benefit of affirmative action because they have been classified as “Non-bumiputera” . Indians are a minority in this country but they form the majority when it comes to statistics on deaths in police custody or police killings.
We should be glad the Hindraf uprising happened and the political ripple it created after the 2008 general elections. Credit should be given to their leaders for achieving this feat and for breaking the decades of MIC patronage and pacifism.
The uprising certainly did not happen through the MIC nor did it happen through the other political parties in this country no matter what they say now. It is pointless being wise after the event or to advertise your pristine party – the fact is, HINDRAF succeeded where the other political parties failed to do, namely, to mobilize the Indian masses to come out in revolt on 25 November 2007.
Right to Separate Organisation
Being a specially oppressed and marginalized section of the masses, it is the right of the Indian masses to organize separately just as the Black Movement developed in the West during the sixties. Similarly, women have the right to organize separately through their special circumstances as an oppressed section of the population.
But to then say that Indians or Blacks are “racist” or that feminists are “sexist” is to expose your own shortcoming and more importantly, to let off the culprits who cause racial oppression and gender oppression in our society.
Racism and Racial Discrimination in Malaysia
Racism or more specifically, “Bumiputeraism” has been the dominant ideology of the Malay capitalist class ever since May 13, 1969. It has been practiced under the guise of the “New Economic Policy” and that racism has been covertly disseminated through state institutions such as the Biro TataNegara all these years. It is a marvel that it has taken so long for this racist garbage perpetrated through the BTN to be exposed! Before long, we will hear of racist propaganda in other state institutions especially schools and hostels since the seventies.
In 1986, this racism was flagrantly espoused by Abdullah Ahmad in his infamous “Malay Dominance” speech in Singapore but the cat was let out of the bag when Mahathir had a spat with Nazri recently and they were calling each other ‘Racist’…
More recently, we have seen the formation of Perkasa, which is none other than UMNO’s alter-ego. It has been delegated the role of the racist lobbyist traditionally played by UMNO Youth while UMNO tries desperately to change its spots to win over the Nons after the 2008 debacle.
The stereotypes created by this “Bumiputraist” racism to justify the New Economic Policy remain in circulation: We recently heard Perkasa shouting the old refrain that “the Chinese” still dominate the Malaysian economy. It was a cue for UMNO to continue the NEP in another guise, the New Economic Model. While this has populist appeal to win over the Malay voters, the main beneficiaries are the well-connected capitalists of diverse ethnicities under UMNO hegemony.
The marginalized Indians who make up some of the poorest and most oppressed sections among West Malaysians have been portrayed in a racist light. Thus Indians have been the main victims of racial killings such as at Kampong Medan in 2001, deaths in police custody as well as trigger happy police shootings. (See Policing the Malaysian Police, SUARAM 2005)
Our indigenous peoples and migrant workers have also been portrayed in a racist light and the recent historic uprising by our Orang Asli community was truly uplifting.
Having a separate organization does not of course guarantee that its leadership will be necessarily progressive. Since 2008, we have seen the Hindraf leadership split into various factions.
It is in the common interest of all communities to fight racism on a class basis. In this day and age, affirmative action is not justifiable for any ethnic community which has undergone class differentiation. Thus, I would think that neither the Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazanmurut nor Iban communities can justify any affirmative action. However, communities that are not yet class differentiated such as the Orang Asli and Penan communities may justify affirmative action as a particular community.
The best non-racist approach to progress is still affirmative action based on class or sector.
All progressive Malaysians must unite around their struggles and stop flinging the ‘racist’ label about. The racists are the Umnoputras who control the Malaysian state.
We hope that the true Hindraf leaders will stay faithful to their just cause and correctly identify the primary role of capitalism and the state in causing racial oppression suffered by the Indian masses. The struggle against the Malaysian state can only succeed if it is anti-racist.
At the same time, Hindraf must also work alongside other campaigns for justice, democracy and human rights. We can only mobilize the whole masses if we fight on all fronts, against all oppressions and against the divisions within the masses. As the Black Panthers said in the sixties:
“We do not fight racism with racism…
We fight racism with solidarity”.